The Big Picture: The opening race of the season is always exciting for Formula One. This year, it followed one of the most intriguing off seasons, with the sale of F1 to an American media company and the unexpected retirement of a young champion.
The Event: The race has been held in Melbourne (pronounced “Mel – Bun”) since 1996 when it was moved from Adelaide and has been the first race of the Formula One season since. The course follows a circle around Albert Park Lake, which allows for sweeping turns, few straights, and almost no overtaking. They draw about 300,000 for the race annually with around 100,000 spectators on race day.
In Our Last Episode: Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton won the final race in Abu Dhabi over teammate and eventual champion Nico Rosberg. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel took third.
Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton took his 62nd pole by narrowly beating the resurgent Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel to make for a very exciting front row.
Start: The first start was aborted, which is embarrassing if you consider yourself the very pinnacle of motorsport, as they clearly do. The second start was okay, with Hamilton leading into the first corner and beyond. Not too shabby.
Race: Lewis Hamilton was unable to build much of a margin over the then second place Vettel after a good start. The Mercedes engineers were quickly able to determine his tires were the culprit due to degrading and losing grip. So, the decision was made to pit Hamilton early, ahead of Vettel, with a hope they could make back the time. Unfortunately, fifth place Max Verstappen decided the best thing to do was to obstruct Hamilton, which meant that his fight to take second place was a battle royale. Vettel built a huge nine second lead over the field which meant they finished Vettel, Hamilton, and Bottas.
Best Team: Despite not taking the win, Mercedes was the best team at Australia. Whether it was Valtterri Bottas’ nearly seamless integration taking over for Nico Rosberg, or Hamilton’s pole position, or dominating the podium with two of the three places, Mercedes was the class of the field. Ferrari is not quite there – yet.
Biggest Surprise: Sauber and Ferrari reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi filled in for full-time Sauber driver Pascal Wehrlein thus making his Formula One debut, finishing sixteenth. Wehrlein was said to not be in top shape due to previously suffered racing injuries.
What We Will Remember: The return of Ferrari as a factor in F1 racing, finally. It’s too soon to tell if this is for now on or
for just one race. But Ferrari as a brand and as a team enjoys enormous popularity throughout the world. So, in a way, what’s good for Ferrari is good for Formula One.
Quote of the Weekend: “It’s been a great day for us. The team has been working so hard at the track as much as back at the factory. It’s a great feeling. “Grazie mille”, you can’t say much more. The last months have been really intense, it’s been tough to get into the rhythm. It’s just the beginning and there’s still a lot of work going on. This is one of many steps and we have to enjoy what we do. It’s great to see people smiling. Now we have to reset to go to China and try to do a good job.” Sebastian Vettel, on his first win since Singapore in 2015.
Runner-up Quote of the Weekend: “If it wasn’t already clear after qualifying, then it’s certainly clear now that this is going to be a season of very small margins. We got a good getaway from the flag. But credit to Ferrari today, they had a very quick car and we just weren’t quite good enough to stick with them. We won’t panic, though. It’s race one of a long season and we scored some very good points with both cars today. We’ll be determined to come back stronger in China and make sure those small margins go our way next time.” Mercedes Technical Director James Allison, replacing Paddy Lowe, who moved to Williams.
2nd Runner Up Quote of the Weekend: “Overall great weekend! Not the race we had hoped for, but the team did an amazing job getting us to the podium. Looking forward to China, and a proper fight ahead of us this season! Congrats to Seb! @mercedesamgf1 #AustralianGP #TeamLH x @suttonimages.” Three-time Champion Lewis Hamilton, who finished second.
Schedule: Only two more weeks until the Chinese Grand Prix on April 9th at the Shanghai International Circuit.
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